Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bang for the buck, December 20, 2011
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This review is from: Etymotic Research HF5 Portable In-Ear Earphones (Cobalt) (Electronics)
Premise:
The three-flanges plug fits my ear canal almost perfectly, and the seal is air tight, very good and reasonably comfortable for me. I can wear these buds for hours without discomfort, even if I'm always aware I'm wearing them. Fit and comfort are not to be taken for granted: you *must* find a style of plug that suits your ear canal. Several are provided with the phones, and your mileage may vary. If you cannot establish a good fit, return the buds as they *will* be worthless.

Review:

Provided you can get an acceptable fit, these buds are light years ahead of anything else you can touch for the price when they are on sale. I'm not a bass head, even if I happily use bass-rich plugs (nuForce, 14mm dia. drivers Pioneers, Sony). Even if I appreciate the bassy feel, the HF5 are my reference: there are times when clarity and definition are the name of the game, at which these earbuds excel. Some may find them flat, or unexciting: that's because their personality is pliable and inobtrusive, and while one may get tired of excessive coloration, it is unusual to get tired of well-managed neutrality. Neutrality, though, may be unappealing at first try. Stay with me: this still water runs deep...

What can be done with excellent neutral buds if you need excitement? I'm fond of the Izotope Ozone DSP postprocessor ([..] ) to add analog sparkle to mp3 reproduction. All my headphone and earbuds (yeah, I'm on the budget-aware lunatic audio fringe) can render the enhanced analog touch; these Etymotic HF5, however, because of their precise and transparent personality, allow to hear light postprocessing at its best and in all its glory. By the way, the postprocessor can turn them into bassy buds with no effort, and the HF5 compliantly obey with little effort. But there is no limit to where you can drive them, and these buds will follow any measured touch with finesse, or any extravagant excess effortlessly.

Going back to plain reproduction after DSP retouching is like switching from a 3D movie to the same show in 2D: same plot, different experience, sometimes better, sometimes worse. Beware of flawed material or media, as it will be injected into your ears as it is. Not a fault of the buds, but it does matter to the eventual result. Same with poorly implemented equalizers and the like, as for instance noisy laptop and computer audio (use and external DAC in that case). These earbuds will begin to challenge your audio chain: transducers are usually the weak spots, and in this product that spot becomes a bit stronger than usual

Mechanical construction is OK. The buds are small and no more noticeable than average. The cord appears solid, feels good, but is noisy when touched. Packaging includes a nice pouch and extra plugs. Sound isolation is fabulous with a good fit, with far better music reproduction than any noise cancelling device I've tried. In sum, I own two: one I bought almost three years ago, and another I bought more recently on offer for about half the price of the first. In both cases it was worth the money, but the latter purchase was just plain unbeatable. If I had to save only one pair of devices from my collection, I'd save the HF5, but that's because they fit my ear canal very well.

Pro:
transparent acoustic personality
clean, analytical sound
great value for money
decent mechanical construction
superior sound isolation ability

Cons:
the cable is noisy when touched or moved
very intrusive fit to ear canal
must have good seal to perform well
no mercy with flawed media
possibly uncomfortable
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 29, 2011 7:50:39 PM PST
MainTrane says:
Do these cobalt blue versions of the HF5 still come with a straight plug, or have they been updated to the angled plug available on the black version?

By plug I mean the 3.5mm jack that gets plugged into devices.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2011 9:40:26 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2011 9:45:43 AM PST
alsq says:
Mine has a straight plug, but I bought it years ago. Cannot comment on newer blue models. However, I also have a more recent (a few months ago) red pair that does have an angled plug. These are all the facts I have.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2011 2:29:36 PM PST
MainTrane says:
Thanks for the info! Sounds like there's a chance the newer cobalts come with an angled plug, since the product images for both the red & blue versions still show a straight plug.

I'll see if Amazon can give more up to date info on the cobalt model.
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